Thursday, March 31, 2011

Part 2, The Psychology of Change: Developing Authentic Characters

I'm tickled pink w/ purple polka dots over the responses of Part 1 of the Psychology of Change. I hope that this 2nd segment will be just as useful.

Part 1 dealt with how your character experiences a sense of loss in their life when change occurs and how your character responds to it. Even good change produces stress and a sense of loss. (ie: a new baby means a sense of identity loss, loss of territory or turf, loss of sleep etc.) Click here to read to Part 1 (Or you can just scroll down. Whatever. Take your pick.)

Part 2 deals with outside influences and how they help or hurt your character as he/she deals with the change and sense of loss in their life.

Part 2
The Transition Phase

When a person makes a transition from an old way of life to something new there are outside influences as well as inner battles that shape how they respond to stress and move on.

Things that help a person move through the Transition Phase of "change"
1) Ceremony: Studies show that people tend to get over the stress of "change' in their life if they go through a ceremony, ritual or right of passage of some sort. ie: funerals help a person transition from dealing with a death and moving on with life. Weddings help people transition from a single life to married life. Journaling is a ritual that helps people sort out feelings. Burning pictures, throwing out items, writing letters (you know . . .that sort of stuff) are other types of rituals, ceremonies or rights of passage.

2) Venting: Transition is the time when a person just needs to vent, not be fixed. They needs someone to listen rather than someone to solve their problems.

3) Allowed to act out of character: This is a period of time where your character my act in ways that they normally wouldn't act.

4) People in transition need . . .
A. A positive reminder of why they are going through this change
B. A reminder of the big picture; what is at the end of the road of this transition
C. A plan of action
D. A role to play in their transition. They need to feel like they have some control by taking part in the events that will lead to their end fate.
E. Care
F. Concern

Now ask yourself . . .

1) What positive and healthy things, listed above, does your character do to help them through their transition? What areas are they lacking? (ie: Do they take part in a ceremony, ritual or right of passage that will help them move on, or do they try to ignore their feelings and end up feeling stuck? )

2) How do other characters help or hurt your character in their transition? Who gives your character the support they need? Who is a negative influence that makes it difficult for your character to make progress? Remember, even friends and loved ones can be a negative influence in your characters progress. It doesn't have to be the antagonist who creates all the tension. Even well-meaning people can flub-it-up for your character.

3) How do relationships change for your character during this time of transition? Does he/she gain or lose friends because of the change itself or your characters reaction to change? Does your character start to see a side of people that he/she has never noticed before?

4) What does your character realize about him/her self that they never realized about themselves before? Do they like themselves better or worse? How do they view themselves differently than before? (ie: do they find out that they have a deep inner strength than the realized or do they end up finding out that they are really more of a whiner when things get tough?)

5) Does your character feel like they have any control over their situation or feels like everything is out of control? Does he/she try to take control or does he/she feel hopeless?

Part 3 of the Psychology of Change is "Conclusion" This is simply where your character has found resolution in their circumstances and the "change" in their life is now the norm. They have found peace and acceptance of their circumstances. The end of the story is a new beginning for your character.

This is the Psychology of Change in a nutshell. I hope it helps you in your character development! I'd love to hear if it's useful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The psychology of change: Developing authentic characters

Last month I attended a business conference where I heard a session about the psychology of change as it relates to your business and employees. My hubby is the business end of our marriage so normally I take these opportunities to daydream and/or doodle. However, I noticed early on in the session that the psychology of change has three distinct part. I said to myself, "Self, this sounds like it follows the three part story model and can be applied to story/character development. Instead of daydreaming I pulled out my pen and surprised my husband by taking vigorous and detailed notes. (Sorry honey, I'm not going to run the business. My mind is on writing, as usual.)

So . . . I thought I'd share what I learned about the real life psychology of change and how it can be applied to our characters and help shape our stories.

The 3 parts are broken down into
Part 1: The Beginning is the End
Part 2: Transition
Part 3: Conclusion

Today's post is dedicated solely to Part 1: It deals with A. the change in your characters life, B. how it effects them and how they deal with it.

Part 1 The Beginning is the End:

The beginning of your story starts at a point of change for your character. This "change" is the end of "something" for your character. Even if the change is positive, like becoming more popular, moving into a new house, having a new family member or travel. All change produces stress and a sense of loss. Ask yourself, "How does this change effect my character. What have they lost as a result of this change?"

1) Territory: Does their change cause a sense of displacement in their turf or environment. (ie: does the new brother or sister make your character feel out of place in their own home? Do they have to move rooms? etc)

2) Relationships: How does this change in their life effect their relationships? ie: does their newfound popularity or starring role in the school play cause tension with your characters best friend?)

3) Meaning and purpose in life: Has this life-change caused your character's belief system or purpose in life to be thrown off kilter? Have they lost, in anyway, what gave them a reason for being?

4) Control: What has your character no longer have a hold on? money? health? safety? sleep? etc.

5) Future: How has this change caused your character uncertainty regarding their future?

6) Identity: How has this change caused your character to no longer be what they were before?

7) Structure: How does this change uproot your characters old routine?

B. Now that you've determined area's where your character is experiencing loss, ask yourself, "How does my character respond to their loss?
Do they . . . . .
1) try to restore what they lost? Are they trying to get back exactly what was lost? (ie: get back the same boyfriend)
2) try to replace what was lost? Are they wanting to gain back something similar in a new way? (ie: replace the old boyfriend with a new one)
3) try to redesign what was lost? (ie: develop a new plan. Do they really need a boyfriend? If not, what is their new pursuit?
4) relinquish what was lost? Your character gives up on replacing, restoring or redesigning and moves on to something new altogether.

The next post will be about Part 2, the Transition and what helps or hinders your characters transition.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Words of encouragement for authors and writers, from one of my favorite authors . . . Kathleen Duey

This interview of Encouragement is especially meaningful to me because one of my favorite authors, Kathleen Duey, has given us her personal insights into handling discouragement as a writer. Kathleen is the author of over 70 b00ks for ages k-YA. This is a gal who has faced the dragons of defeat and fought them head on! She's my hero!!!!

Here, exclusively at Christy's Creative Space, she gives encouragement to writers both published and unpublished based on her years of experience. I hope you get as much out of her words of wisdom as I have. Since I've been researching Unicorns recently, I thought Kathleen would be a great person to interview since she has written a popular series about Unicorns, starting with "Moonsilver" which I will review in the near future.

1. Do you have a favorite saying, quote, or poem that inspires you during times of discouragement?
​Quotes , wise sayings, and favorite poems make me smile, laugh, cry, and often touch me deeply, but they don’t help me write when I am discouraged. I have learned to go outside and do something physically exhausting instead of staring at the screen. I put a digital recorder in my pocket when I pick up my garden shovel because once I get out of my head and into my body, ideas always come, characters always talk, and when the chores are done (or sooner, if the ideas are breathless and urgent) I can always write. On bad weather days, I dance to loud music, indoors.

2. Do you have a story about discouragement in your own writing career?
​It seems to me that discouragement is a common resting state for most writers. If we work hard, don’t quit, and get lucky, it alternates with wild and glorious writing-fever, joy when a book is acquired, praised…then we start over. Do I have a personal story of discouragement? No. I have a gazillion. So let’s talk about a story in progress:
​One of my current works is the third version of something an editor I love is interested in. I was SO sure I had nailed it in both versions one and two. The editor was kind enough to give me some phone time. Talking to her, I finally realized that the parts of the project that tickled her were sidelights for me—and the core inspiration/heart of the thing for me was the “too introspective, less broad-appeal/less commercial” part for her. She wants MUCH more humor. She had said that very clearly, both times. I just wasn’t listening very well. Her last words (via an email) were: “Remember: have fun!”

Start over………????
Day one: Loop tape in my head: Am I capable of writing the kind of humor she wants?
Day two: Loop tape in my head: Seriously. Am I capable of writing anything anyone would want?
Day three: I loved the original version, inspired by immigrant kids I know. That was the heart/mind grounding of the story. The spark. And it had a lot of humor in it. Or so I thought. Can I even TELL what’s funny?
Day four: Maybe the truth is I really can’t write humor very well.
Day five: Maybe the truth is I can’t write humor AT ALL.
Night five: Maybe I didn’t do my homework? Wouldn’t be the first time.
Day six: I reread several very funny books for the age group that have done well in the marketplace. I suddenly saw my revisions as the flimsy compromise/ hybrids/ they were. I had added token humor to please the editor, not the child-reader—or me.
Day seven: The discouragement began to lift because I had identified the problem. It was a HUGE one, but at least I saw it clearly. I used Amazon to read the available pages of a few dozen more best-selling funny books for the age group.
Day eight: I wrote a big, multi colored sticky note that summarized what I had learned: “Self-absorbed characters are usually funnier. If they aren’t inappropriately confident, kind of oblivious, and impervious to real growth, we can’t laugh without guilt.”
Day nine: I began to write down concepts for the next version.
Day ten: I began to hope that I really can nail it this time.
Day eleven onward: I am working on it as much as I can while writing another book. I THINK it is really funny now.

3) What words of encouragement do you have for people who have yet to publish their first manuscript?
​Almost nothing is fun until you get good at it and that takes time. Writing is an art, like painting, like playing the violin. Expect a long learning curve and know that it is typical. We all struggle with the elements of writing. We all wrestle words into place, fight with a tough scene for days. We all stare at blank screens, blank paper, the blank face in the mirror and know, beyond all doubt, that we can’t write, then three days later we give ourselves goose bumps writing a scene that resonates in our hearts. Persistence and Patience are your best friends, talk to them often, stay in touch.

4) What words of encouragement do you have for those who are published yet are seeking further publication?
​Every writer is seeking further publication, I think. I certainly am. Learning to deal with the gaps and occasional failures and the W. A. I. T. I. N. G…… is just part of the job description. I am not saying it’s easy, I’m saying it’s inescapable and that you will get better at it with practice. Try to always be expanding your skills, experimenting, fiddling with ideas and techniques.

​For me, the very best cure for discouragement is to write, to re-discover the exhilaration and of the art and craft itself, to remember how wondrous it is to take thin air and weave a story from it. On my worst days I remind myself that I am part of an ancient, disorganized guild of artists, a scattered and various tribe of people who have always bared their hearts, and by doing so, bared everyone’s hearts. We do something basic, pivotal, essentially human, something that is both loved and needed by everyone. Most days, remembering that is enough to help me nudge discouragement aside and get back to work.

Thank you so much, Kathleen, for taking this time to give us words of encouragement. I love that you find inspiration in living life and dancing. It's also great to know that even the "GREATS" like you, question themselves. It give me hope! :0)